Modern Family – “Yard Sale” a recap


Work was busy so I didn’t get to recap last week’s “Yard Sale” from Modern Family. It was a great episode – not much happened – and the plot wasn’t great, but it was a fantastic collection of gags, and we got some great gags from a super-game cast.

So “Yard Sale” has the Pritchett family hold the titular yard sale to raise money for UNICET as a project for Manny’s and Luke’s social studies class. Of course Manny’s most interested in the altruism, but Luke’s thrilled about the celebratory pizza party. Not okay with being scolded by Manny, Luke retorted with a great, “Easy, Delgado, I’ve seen you with a pizza.”

Jay’s sour attitude towards the event is great. He’s not happy with strangers traipsing on his front yard. While the other family members have been trying to sell their wares, Jay couldn’t care less, sitting on a lawn chair, pissed – you can almost see a tiny cloud of pissiness over his head.

So, the kids are participating, and Haley’s doing her part by being imperious and spoiled on Skype, with Luke dutifully carrying around an open laptop as Haley was raging about having her John Mayer poster sold. I wish Sarah Hyland would return – as great as Luke and Alex are (and more on Alex in a bit), Haley was really the most reliable for some great snarky humor, and having Hyland perform via a laptop screen – it reminded me of when Suzanne Somers was being fired from Three’s Company, and was relegated to a single phone call scene throughout her last season.

So speaking of Alex – her boyfriend Michael’s popular among the Dunphy clan, but mama Claire thinks he’s gay. So she turns to Mitch and Cam for advice, hoping that they’ll school their little niece about Michael’s proclivity… At first the guys poo-poo Claire’s suspicions – until he glided past by. Cam wants to warn Alex, while Mitch thinks it’d be a bad idea, wanting Alex and Michael to figure it out on their own.

Confronted by her family, Alex insists Michael’s not gay, and she marches into Jay’s house and finds Michael idly look through Elle Decor. Before she can ask him if he’s gay, Michael excitedly mentions that Justin Timberlake would be designing his home, but that he’ll withhold judgement. But he’s not gay. When she asks him if he likes boys, it doesn’t go well, and Michael flips angrily through Elle Decor, seriously pissed. This can be a very cool, potentially poignant plot line – I mean I felt really bad for the kid, and for Alex, who was very kind. It’s a little sad to see how spooked Michael is when asked – even though Alex was very understanding.

While acting as counselor to his niece, Mitch is also acting as clothing monitor to Cam. As we remember from the Halloween episode, Cameron lost about 30 pounds. To commemorate the event, he dropped off 6 pairs of pants for the yard sale. They’re his “fat pants” and is proud that he can’t fit in them anymore. Mitch is terrified that Cam will regain the weight and go through hell when having to buy new pants again. He goes through the episode squirreling them away whenever he can, only to be found. Not a great subplot, but the two stars – Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson  – are always good for a laugh. It’s just too bad that Lily was left…somewhere…

While Claire’s dealing with Alex’s love for a possibly-gay person, Phil is drawn into a 127 Hours scenario. Prodded by Jay and Claire to take a spin on a motorbike, Phil gets excited and drives into the mountains, only to be wedged underneath the huge hog when it tips over. He records a desperate video on his mobile, saying goodbye to his family. He then has to use a pocket knife to cut through his pants to free himself. Again, like with the Cam and Mitch storyline, the Phil plotline isn’t all that great either – but I like Ty Burrell’s both-feet-in performance.

Sofia Vergara’s Gloria has largely been squished into the sidelines, so it’s pretty cool that she got some of the funniest lines in the show. Luke and Manny find her trunk and want to know what’s inside: Luke thinks it’s a head because Gloria’s Colombian, and that’s what Colombians do in the Modern Family universe, probably because his grandad and his mom both feed that kind of rot.

So what’s inside the trunk? A ventriloquist’s dummy. When she was 18, and competing in a pageant, she put together a ventriloquist bit for the talent portion. But she froze in stage fright. “Aww,” purred a consoling Mitch, “and you lost.”

“No, I won,” Gloria sniffed. “Imagine this,” she said gesturing to her hot bod (even when it’s stretched out in pregnancy), “when I was 18.”

Claire, who always had a love/hate relationship with her stepmom, wants to see Gloria’s puppet act. So do Manny and Luke. Gloria, of course – like any sane adult, wants to bury this part of her life and not bring it up. She gets manipulated by Luke – who always reveals a surprisingly wily side to his personality, by letting it slip that Manny would be very disappointed if his mom wouldn’t face her fears.

So Gloria did her hot Latina Edgar Bergen bit. And while she wasn’t Sherri Lewis (Bergen and Lewis are the only two puppeteers I know off hand), she did fine, and it was a charming performance. Vergara’s lips obviously moved, but her schtick was funny and intentionally hacky. Her puppet, Uncle Grumpy, is a sour, dour-faced guy who hates everything. His response to Basic Instinct: “Basically, it stinks…” Hi hooooo.

Jay, who finds the whole day to be a test in patience, walks in on the act, and is suitably horrified and irritated. “I don’t even want to know what this is.” He marches off in a huff – and Claire and Mitch realize that Uncle Grumpy is Jay – Gloria married Uncle Grumpy.

The episode quickly ties up the loose ends – Alex reconciles with Michael, Claire and Phil won’t buy the motorbike, Gloria confronts her fear and performs, and Mitch realizes that he has to support Cam.

“Yard Sale” was a fun episode. There were some great one-liners throughout the show, and lots of laugh out-loud shots, too.

Some of the more awesome moments:
-When confronted by her family, Gloria, refuses to perform with Uncle Grumpy. Gay Michael suggests that she kept the dummy all this time because she was trying to find closure. Her snarled response, “You’re wrong, whoever you are.”

-As Gloria was recounting her tale of the pageant, she went over her stage fright and described herself and Uncle Grumpy: “We were speechless.”

-Cameron referring to Mitch as “she” when Claire asked him, “Can’t you talk to her?” meaning Alex.

-Jay throughout the whole episode is hilarious. The bargaining scene between him and a neighbor is great – the two wealthy guys quibble over a 15 cent difference on a 50 cent ash tray.

What did you think of “Yard Sale”?


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Filed under commentary, Sitcom, Television

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